Your career is not your life. Too often in a world where we define and judge others based on their success, your professional success becomes the only worthwhile achievement. In a world where the idea of being a “boss lady” is idolized, we fail to see that there is more to our lives than our careers.
When we’re frequently asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” from the ages of five to 18, our careers become an important, internalized goal from a young age. We’re told that if we don’t do well in school, we’ll simply be failures in life. We go to university, expecting to work hard and get into a great career path. We give what society considers the “best years of our lives” to activities and experiences that will look good on our resumes.
We think we’ve evolved, but we still have our ape instincts that tell us we need to climb to the top of the tree (or corporate ladder in this case) to get everything we want, to be seen as successful, or even to see ourselves as successful. Before you know it, you’re thrust into a job you spend almost all of your day doing with the feeling of overwhelming emptiness in you. You try to ignore the feeling as you fill your life with more meaningless achievements that are applauded by your family and friends, ultimately hoping to leave your mark on the world.
Maybe the higher you climb, the better the view will be, and you’ll somehow feel fulfilled upon seeing all that you’ve achieved. You look down upon people who haven’t achieved the same level of professional success as you, yet they somehow seem happier. But unlike a tree, the ladder is never ending. We find ourselves chasing the next promotion or the next achievement to feel happy again, to feel a sense of purpose, to reassure ourselves that we are not failures. Eventually, one bad day at work can break our self-confidence and a lack of achievement can quickly turn into self-loathing. And then eventually you find yourself muttering the words “I’m tired” on a daily basis, blanketed by the feeling of never being good enough.
It ends only when you realize that your career and your professional achievements do not define who you are. Because you are so much more than that. You are the person who enjoys reading for fun, the person who laughs the loudest at family gatherings, the person who takes every opportunity to be with their friends, the person who likes to go on long drives, or the person who is too competitive at every sport. Whatever it is, it is certainly more than your career path or any other achievement society thinks can define you. Identifying yourself with the things that feed your soul is the only way to fill that ever-growing emptiness in your heart. These are the little things that define who you are and determine if you’ve lived a life full of joy and love.